Improver articles

Play and Defend Better: for improving players

A Time to Draw Trumps

Generally, defenders do not, or should not, draw trumps, especially at trick 1. One time when it is correct to disobey that rule is when the defence has the majority of high card points. In this situation, the contract may well be doubled with declarer looking either to ruff losers in dummy or to score extra tricks via a cross-ruff.

Let’s look at an example:

North Deals
Both Vul
Q 10 8
Q 6 2
Q J 6 5 4
3 2
K 5 3
8 4
A 10 9 2
A 10 9 4
W   E
J 6 4
K 9 3
K 7 3
K J 7 6
A 9 7 2
A J 10 7 5
Q 8 5
West North East South
  Pass Pass 1 
Dbl 2  3  3 
Pass Pass Dbl All pass

West’s double of 1Heart-small was aggressive and set in motion a competitive auction. Indeed, East was quite strong for their non-forcing 3Club-small call, so much so, that when South competed once more, East made a penalty double. Playing Teams, such a double would be unwise though if the game was Pairs, one down in what sounded like a competitive part-score deal would be excellent for the defence…two down even better!

What was not better was what happened. With both minor suits being headed by aces, West chose to lead Spade-small3. Declarer misguessed by playing low from dummy, with the jack forcing the ace. Declarer led a low club from hand and although the defence switched to trumps, it was too late.

A second club from declarer who had finessed HK successfully produced another round of trumps, though South could win in hand, ruff a club and eventually could draw East’s remaining trump, losing just one spade, one diamond and two club tricks. 730 in the North-South column earned no match-points for the defence!

It need not have been so. Certainly, South was fortunate that spades broke 3-3 and that the heart finesse worked but they should still have been penalised for over-bidding. With 3C a very precarious contract (maybe even 2 down, if trumps were misguessed ,though the initial Diamond-small8 lead would help East in that contract), South may have over-bid.

From West’s point of view, either their partner had a stack of good hearts or else enough high cards to suggest 3Heart-small would be defeated. Either way, East should be able to handle a trump lead at trick 1. The rewards of such a lead could have been even greater than preventing a club ruff. Declarer would be left to play spades for themselves with a chance that South might play low from dummy (say Spade-smallA and a second spade), losing both to the jack and the king.

After an initial trump lead, South might still try for the ruff or else hope for some joy in the diamond suit. With three rounds of trumps played by the defence, South must lose three clubs, a spade and a diamond. +200, maybe even +500, both  much better scores for the defence.

East might have expected a better hand for their partner’s initial double. West created an exciting auction but had to think through the implications of so much bidding…and find the trump lead. On a bad day for the defence, dummy will produce a long second suit for declarer to establish. This was no such bad day. The defence should have prevailed.

Richard Solomon


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